From Beach to Street

Looking back into the roots of streetwear, where the lifestyle came from and when its defining moment of creation was, Shawn Stussy is the name that appears prevalent. Shawn Stussy started his trade as a local surfboard shaper of Laguna Beach in California. He used his own logo on his surfboard designs, which he shaped until 1980, when he first printed his logo on to tee shirts.

He sold these tee shirts with his surfboards and before he knew it, it was an instant hit with the surfers, skaters and local beach dwellers. This simple idea grew infamous from here and planted the seed for worldwide streetwear scene we see today.

One part of what makes streetwear what it is in today’s urban clothing culture is the fact as it becomes more and more popular, and this comes from Stussy’s legacy, it still remains something underground. This can be partly ascribed to streetwear being a subculture and to the fact independents rule.

The more widely held streetwear brands, stores and sites have largely avoided, out of choice, being bought out by mammoth companies who would undoubtedly bring the brands to the commercial forefront. Streetwear boutiques have also started to phase out the more corporate, mainstream brands, in order to show loyalty to the independent brands.

Due to what Stussy and his tee shirts represented, and the idea of expression through clothes, meant the predominantly African American hip-hop heads felt and understood this vibe and too, got involved. In the mid to late 80’s, they had no real voice in the media and in addition to this were not marketed to as a demographic. They tuned to this movement, and used it as an opportunity to express themselves as unique individuals and not just a demographic that was ignored in the world of commercialism.

Mainstream commercialism and fashion was not something that could or indeed would be desired as a method to spread the seeds of streetwear. This meant designers turned to the raw core of what fashion was, an art that expressed, and most importantly communicated with others. This is how this underground movement marketed itself; through the many unique individuals and their street clothes.

Hip-Hop, in general, cultivated all to be self expressive and it is this ethos that streetwear has become. So in streetwear, unique expression is found throughout the fashion cycle; the designer expresses something they feel, but when the individual puts that item on, it becomes their expression and a statement about how they feel.

In the 1980’s, the youth of Japan were consumers and in some cases fanatical about all things American, but in the early 90’s they were heavily influencing and putting their mark on what streetwear came from the USA. Stand-out brands such as Real Mad Hectic and Bathing Ape came to the forefront of streetwear culture and fashion, and kept up the uniqueness of streetwear clothing, by releasing limited edition attire, fetching large sums and quite often incorporating background stories. This created fixated followers, and carved out a market in Japan for streetwear.

Streetwear has been sculpted by its past and through pioneers like Shawn Stussy, the influence of the hip hop culture and the input of Japanese designers. Streetwear is a non-commercial entity of exclusivity and self expression, and whilst being adopted by the masses, still stays underground, keeping streetwear’s roots where it started.